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How Technology Impacts Volunteer Retention

What’s your organization’s volunteer churn rate? Does your organization measure this statistic?

If not, let’s get you up to speed. Nonprofit Volunteer Retentionanalyst Janna Finch, consultant to the American Red Cross, comments in a recent article that “… 30% of volunteers who donate their time to an organization don’t come back the next year.” Sound familiar?

Recruiting and engaging new volunteers is a worthwhile, but time-intensive task. That’s why it is so frustrating to see all your hard work slip away when volunteers stop donating their time. Unfortunately, this happens all too often.

It’s much easier to keep a volunteer than to recruit and train a new one. “Retaining [volunteers] should be a priority,” Finch states. She points to the use of technology (specifically the use of both social media and online volunteer management software) as a way for organizations to build strong relationships with volunteers and reduce churn.

Let’s take a look at how social media and volunteer management technology complement one another to impact retention.

Is Your Organization Being “Social” – Or Not?

Fostering communication among volunteers via social media builds a sense of community and helps people feel like they are a part of your cause. Sometimes social media focuses too much on public relations, when instead it should be more encompassing. Don’t just promote your organization; instead, focus on engaging your audience and building goodwill. A simple way to accomplish this goal is to make tweeting and social posts part of your staff’s everyday experience. Engaging on a grassroots, employee level helps foster a more organic feel. Encourage your team to share success stories, pictures from events, and inspiring messages. Just make sure you have some parameters and rules for their participation.

Keenan Wellar, co-leader of the Canadian organization LiveWorkPlay, said in a recent Charity Village blog post that it’s taken a couple years to fully integrate the idea of social media into their daily routine. In fact, he still reminds staff to snap pictures and shoot video to post on different media channels. “It’s part of our culture,” Wellar says. “When we have an event we automatically post something on Facebook and Twitter in advance; at the event we live-tweet and share photos. Afterwards, we post an album of photos and tweet about it and if appropriate share video to YouTube…. Not everyone intuitively takes photos all the time and it took some persuasion. Now it has become as natural as breathing.” Volunteers and donors appreciate consistency in how you communicate with them. Keeping your social media sites packed full of current, fresh, and relevant content helps reiterate your relationship.

Establishing a reliable and engaging social routine is half the battle. Once you’ve passed this hurdle, you can begin to deploy additional programs to further engage volunteers and constituents. For example, it might be worthwhile to create a hashtag for each event so participants can help you get the word out. As volunteers accomplish specific tasks, you might consider offering special badges for their online profiles. These types of actions add up in the long run and foster increased loyalty to your cause.

Connecting Your Social Media and Operations

As your social media presence expands and your message goes viral, you need an automated process for managing this new interest in your organization. Automating the volunteer management process is a great way to do so. Take Big Brothers Big Sisters as an example. According to the nonprofit analyst, Janna Finch, the organization has built tremendous efficiency by leveraging a volunteer management platform. The organization uses the tool specifically to generate and deliver call lists so staff can check on volunteers who mentor the children served by the agency. This system eliminates the need for staff to keep individual spreadsheets and coordinates information in one central location.

Simply stated, a tool like VolunteerHub can save your organization significant time and money by automating the volunteer management process. Scheduling, registration, and hour tracking are all centralized into a single web-based portal. The system even sends your volunteers automatic event reminders and thank-you emails. This gives your staff the ability to spend more time with volunteers at events or in the office instead of in the process of managing them. To learn more about how VolunteerHub can automate your nonprofit’s operations, contact

Connecting People with Purpose via Technology

Many people volunteer because they want to connect with others. To accommodate this desire, always be mindful of how your organization is leveraging technology. Technology should be used to deepen this connection. By building deeper connections with your volunteers, you ensure the viability of your mission and the betterment of the cause you serve.

Headshot of Corbit Harrison

About Corbit Harrison

Corbit Harrison is VolunteerHub's Chief Operating Officer and has been actively helping nonprofit organizations engage constituents for over 10 years.

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